Can a family sedan have a soul? Well after driving the Mazda 6 GT for the past week, I am pleased to confirm that yes, yes it can. Although many see family sedans as appliances, Mazda was able to inject some of their fun-to-drive DNA into their latest offering. After testing their top of the line GT trim level, I found the Mazda 6 bests its competitors on a few key fronts, making it a family sedan worth your consideration.
[Full Disclosure: Mazda wanted me to drive the 2017 Mazda 6 GT so badly they delivered it to my home with a brand new set of Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires. Sadly it snowed the day after it was picked up. They also included a $25 dollar gift card that allowed Shifting Lanes to select a charity to donate to on Mazda’s dime.]
Before we dive into what makes the Mazda 6 GT great we need to discuss a few of its shortcomings. At staggering $35,000 our test car was fully loaded. Sure it provides tons of great features that we will discuss below, but that’s a lot of money for a Mazda 6. The efficient drivetrain that is a superb for $25,000 car suddenly becomes only adequate in the GT’s price range. Serious shoppers of the Mazda 6 GT need to decide upfront if they are willing to sacrifice horsepower and brand prestige for a fully loaded Mazda 6 GT.
The first ten minutes behind the wheel of any car reveals a lot.
The first ten minutes behind the wheel of any car reveals a lot. An unfamiliar interior, new drive train, and unadjusted seating position greet you. Trapped in this alien world, you either understand it immediately or face the dreaded learning curve associated with toady’s tech packed cars. In the past, we’ve experienced many cars with similar features but none were as intuitive as the Mazda 6. Every inch of the Mazda 6 makes sense. The knobs do exactly what you want them to do and every feature is easy to find. The intuitive interior of the Gray Mazda 6 GT was covered with beautiful white Napa leather, contrasting a black interior with silver trimmed dials. Mazda’s design is a cut above the rest, from the dramatic exterior to the intelligent interior, beauty is everywhere in the Mazda 6.
The appeal of the Mazda 6 isn’t skin deep. Even with the dramatic exterior styling, there is still enough room to comfortably fit four adults. The curvy coupe-like silhouette of the exterior gives way to a black and white interior that wraps around the driver. Every inch of the interior offers something pleasant to look at. The Mazda GT delivers on the luxury front, whether it be the leather-trimmed center consul or the white leather seats piped with dark gray accents. The quiet isolated cabin makes this an excellent car to take on long trips with enough space for a family of four.
Although the infotainment screen is smaller than competitors, it’s extremely easy to use. Important information isn’t hidden in endless sub-menus and can easily be controlled with the knob located in the center consul. Annoyingly, you cannot use the touchscreen or pair a Bluetooth device while driving. The GT comes with the upgraded Bose audio system that easily fills the cabin with high-quality sound. Those looking for bass might want to consider a subwoofer to complete the system. The climate control system has its own section of the center consul and is controlled by buttons. It’s amazing how easily companies forgot why buttons worked and this climate control system is a pleasant reminder that buttons cannot be replaced with a screen. The dual zone climate control is bolstered by heated front and rear seats and the must have heated steering wheel.
The leather wrapped steering wheel is the most important part of this car.
The leather wrapped steering wheel is the most important part of this car and it isn’t because it’s heated. This steering wheel unlocks the Mazda 6’s exceptional handling. A tight and perfectly weighted steering rack like this has no business being in a midsized sedan. Although the steering feedback, it allows the car to quickly change direction and with the aid of Mazda’s brake simulated G-Vector differential, has turn in reminiscent of a Miata. Although the 6 lacks power, it makes up for it with poise and handling precision. I found myself taking the long way to places because the Mazda 6 is a genuine joy to drive.
Even while riding on 19inch wheels wearing Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires the ride was comfortable. The suspension easily controls the body motions of this light 3,300lb sedan. Chuck the car into a corner and it stays flat and composed, even over mid-corner bumps. During normal driving, the suspension easily soaked up the pores roads of the Northeast only becoming unsettled by larger potholes. When compared to more sophisticated systems like the magnetic ride found in the Ford Fusion, the Mazda 6 makes a case for a traditional suspension setup.
The sweet chassis of the Mazda 6 is where the sportiness ends.
The sweet chassis of the Mazda 6 is where the sportiness ends. The 2.5 liter Skyactive 4-cylinder only produces 184 horsepower and requires old fashioned revs to find motivation. This engine may be a good value in the lower trim levels but in this GT trim it’s outclassed by competitors. Thankfully, Mazda hasn’t used any electronic trickery to make the engine sound better. What you hear is what you get in this case. Although it’s down on power, its delivers the efficiency consumers have come to expect. It achieves a 30 MPG city and 35 MPG highway without forced induction. Instead, it uses the power of regenerative braking.
Mazda’s i-Eloop system harnesses the lost energy of braking and captures it in a capacitor. This energy and then used to charge up the battery to power the car’s numerous electronic systems. This system allows for greater efficiency in the city because stopping is no longer a complete waste of energy. Unlike other regenerative braking systems, it’s quiet and has a good pedal feel. More importantly, it makes the annoying act of braking worth it. A clever system like this is simple to install and produces better fuel economy without extensive modifications to the car.
Other important tech features focus on keeping you safe. A heads up display shows important information to keep your eyes on the road and your speed within reason. It shows your current speed as well as the speed limit. The heads up display also shows stop signs, following distance, as well as lane keeping information. Other passive systems include Smart City Brake Support to reduce low-speed collisions, rear cross traffic alerts, and lane departure warning.
The biggest issue with the Mazda 6 GT is the price. For $35,000 you are spoiled for choice when shopping for a luxury sedan. The 6 GT occupies that weird middle ground between entry-level luxury sedans and fully loaded mid-sized sedans. If you’re looking for a fast performance sedan, this is not the car for you. But if you want a comfortable, efficient, beautiful sedan the Mazda GT should be high on your list.